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Facebook Unveils ThreatExchange Program For Sharing Data On Malicious Botnets

Friday, June 12th, 2015

Facebook has created an entirely new platform for sharing data on malicious botnets with its peers. Dubbed as ThreatExchange, the program would enable Facebook and its partner companies to exchange information related to the latest security threats more quickly and take remedial measures before such threats become unmanageable and cause widespread damage. The program is the brainchild of Facebook’s threat infrastructure team which is tasked with identifying and dealing with malicious attacks against the social networking behemoth.

The idea for the ThreatExchange program originated more than a year ago when Facebook collaborated with Tumblr, Pinterest and several other social media companies to deal with a new type of botnet attack. The threat was relying on the social networks to propagate itself and was using a variety of techniques to hide its activities. The botnet was dealt with effectively once security teams from the above companies sat together and brainstormed on the best course of action.

After the collaboration was successful, Mark Hammell from Facebook’s threat infrastructure team realized that they needed a mechanism to share information related to the latest security threats in real time so that future botnet attacks could be dealt with quickly and effectively. This resulted in the creation of the ThreatExchange program which would see enhanced co-operation between several Silicon Valley companies.

The ThreatExchange program is built on top of the existing Facebook platform and it operates through a set of APIs (Application Programming Interface) which allows participating companies to exchange information seamlessly. With the program, social media companies can quickly learn about malicious links, suspicious domains and other types of threats and block them before they start appearing in the news feeds of their users. In addition, the program includes several control mechanisms to allow companies to fine-tune the type of information that they wish to exchange and even permits them to share information only with specific organizations.

While ThreatExchange is a very useful program, it is not accessible to all organizations or social networks. The program made its debut with a handful of participants which included Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Pinterest and Tumblr. In the recent months, Dropbox and Bitly have been added to the member list. Companies interested in joining the platform need to file a request with Facebook but there is no guarantee that they would be accepted into the program.

The launch of the ThreatExchange program is yet another example that more and more Silicon Valley companies are shedding their reservations and coming together to fight against botnets and hacking attacks. Unlike in the past, many companies, including Google and Facebook, are now offering rewards to independent researchers and outsiders to identify bugs within their code. This works in everyone’s interests since service providers are able to learn about hidden bugs and plug them before they could be exploited by the hackers. The ThreatExchange program could not have come at a better time since social media has become a dominant force on the internet and is often used by cyber criminals to implant their malicious programs on the devices of the innocent users. Let’s hope that the initiative is successful and is able to reduce security attacks through social networks.

June 12, 2015

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